Jury selection is set to begin today in the murder trial of teenager Daniel William Marsh, who stands accused of fatally stabbing an elderly Davis couple more than a year ago in a crime that shocked the Davis community.
Oliver Northup, 87, was a respected longtime attorney and, later in life, a popular musician in the local folk combo Putah Creek Crawdads. Claudia Maupin, 76, was devoted to her church and community as a pastoral associate and spiritual director at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis. Northup was a founding member of the church.
Both were stabbed to death, their bodies found the night of April 14, 2013, in the bedroom of their south Davis condominium by police. Officers were called that night by family members who grew concerned after the couple never showed for an engagement with the band earlier that day.
That such violence could visit Davis stunned the leafy college town. The killings were the city’s first since 2011. As shocking was the news that Marsh had been arrested in the killings. As a 12-year-old, Marsh was hailed a hero by the Red Cross for saving his father’s life after the elder Marsh suffered a near-fatal heart attack behind the wheel of the family’s station wagon.
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The charge against Marsh provided a glimpse into the horrific acts: first-degree murder with special circumstances. The killings were committed, prosecutors said, “in a way that manifested exceptional depravity.”
Marsh, 17, originally pleaded not guilty to the crimes, but changed his plea in June to not guilty by reason of insanity in the deaths. He has since been evaluated by psychiatric experts ahead of trial.
Marsh remains in Yolo County juvenile custody. He is ineligible for the death penalty because of his age but faces a life sentence if convicted.
Yolo Superior Court documents detailed a chaotic family life marked by financial troubles, mental health problems, vitriolic custody fights, and Marsh’s own battles with anorexia and deep depression. He stayed in a psychiatric hospital just four months before the Davis slayings.
But testimony at Marsh’s preliminary hearing last September by Davis police detectives who interviewed Marsh proved more disturbing. They described Marsh as someone bent on killing that April night in 2013.
Police said Marsh roamed darkened Davis streets dressed in black, carrying a 6-inch hunting knife, in the hours before dawn. He looked for homes with open windows or unlocked doors before breaking into the couple’s condo on Cowell Boulevard.
Police testified that Marsh told them he felt “exhilarated” as he stood over the couple’s bed, then attacked the pair as they awakened.
Nearly 500 pages of medical and mental health documents related to Marsh triggered controversy in court on Friday as prosecutors accused the defense counsel of withholding the paperwork before trial. A judge rejected the accusations as a handcuffed Marsh sat silently fidgeting in the jury box.